Psalm 16: Where the Lines Fell to Me

Two reliable signs of a good psalm setting are (1) when it gets picked frequently at church events that include singing and (2) when it makes it into more than one songbook. Both those indicators are certainly present for Don McCrory’s tune for Psalm 16, which originally appeared as 16D in The Book of Psalms for Worship (2009). Since then, this beautiful melody has beecome a standard at church functions across the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and it has also been included as setting 16B in the Trinity Psalter Hymnal (2018), albeit with a slightly different metrical setting.

I ran into Don McCrory while representing Geneva College at the joint synod and general assembly of the United Reformed Churches in North America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 2018. He is a kind gentleman, a member of an OPC in the Grand Rapids area. I took the opportunity to thank him for this tune (STERLING is its name), and his response was humble and earnest: “The Lord gave me that tune, and I’m just thankful it has been a gift to the churches.” Indeed, a gift it has been and continues to be.

Psalm 16 hits home in a number of ways, but a particular way in which it always convicts me is the verse which says, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (v. 6). The psalm invites believers to reflect on God’s providence to them over the course of their lives as they look forward to enjoying his presence someday forever.

What’s even more special is that this particular setting of Psalm 16 is itself part of my beautiful inheritance. If I had not attended Geneva, I might never have known this psalm. Now it is a part of my history and identity, and I share that gift with others who went to the same school and had the same melody implanted in their hearts.

I recorded this improvisation on Don McCrory’s tune STERLING in the empty sanctuary of a recently closed Methodist church in Beaver Falls, now the property of Geneva College. The organ hasn’t been tuned in who knows how long, and it’s not a concert instrument–just a humble little church organ with a warm and beautiful sound. Thanksgiving was on my mind. The lines have fallen in pleasant places. The property that the Lord provides is beautiful.

–MRK

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